April 30, 2012


April Showers bring May flowers! Brigitte Bardot peels down to her flower bra in Mademoiselle Striptease (Plucking the Daisy/1956). Image available from Owen's Archive.


Gathering images over the last couple of years for a book, I've come across some pieces that really appeal to me as a photographer. I still love the look and feel of the darkroom process, so it's no surprise that something like a proof sheet of images taken on-set would thrill me completely. Here is a proof sheet that reveals the photographer's approach and process as they tried to capture Ursula Andress and Sean Connery filming Dr. No. As I would point out to my students, you can tell how the scenes were edited in the frame at a variety of distances, settings, and how they explored a number of ideas for this particular roll of film. You can imagine them thinking through questions, like what is the story, who are the characters, what are the key elements that can be translated in single images? They didn't get much with 007 here, but they sure succeeded in establishing the iconic image for Ursula's character. 

April 29, 2012


Our Man Johnny sent in a heads up to all Spy Vibers that a rare Judex poster is up for auction. Details here.

April 28, 2012


The thrilling Paul Dark series by author Jeremy Duns is currently being re-published in a variety of volumes. In the United States on My 29th, Penguin will release the full trilogy in one omnibus edition with this fantastic cover art. You can find The Dark Chronicles and other essentials in the Spy Vibe Amazon Store. More details at Jeremy's blog.


Like many stars in the 1960s, Man From U.N.C.L.E.'s David McCallum recorded a number of albums that crossed between easy listening, pop, and rock. As a classically trained musician, he made arrangements of popular songs for oboe, French horn, strings, guitar, and drums. McCallum conducted and contributed his own compositions. Four LPs were made for Capital Records between 1966-1968. A 2001 compilation CD of his first two records, A part of Me and A Bit More of Me is now out of print, but you can still find it as an MP3 download at Amazon and on iTunes. McCallum's face appeared on many picture sleeves of Man From U.N.C.L.E. singles. Here is a cool Japanese release from one of his "solo" projects listed on eBay.

'Communication' was a minor UK hit in 1966 before his first two LPs were released. Speaking to Record Collector Magazine, McCallum said, : "Well, 'Communication' was just a 50's type novelty record, with me talking over the music.  The follow-up was 'In The Garden, Under The Tree', which came from a film called 'Three Bites Of The Apple.'  It was meant to be a comedy with a lot of funny things in it, but the studio took it upon themselves to recut it and make it into a romantic picture." McCallum was then asked to take on the LP projects. "MGM came to me and said, with the success of 'U.N.C.L.E.', you ought to sing a whole album of songs.  I said, I'm an actor, not a singer.  They said, well, just read the telephone book or something and we'll put music to it.  I found that somewhat reprehensible, and suggested that I could do some orchestral arrangements of contemporary pop songs, using woodwind with four French horns as a back up, and rhythm. The idea was to do it with straight orchestral instruments and no guitar or amplification. They gave the idea to David Axelrod at Capitol, who passed it onto H.P. Barnum, the arranger there, who was involved in Motown and rock. When I arrived at the studio they had the finest musicians sitting there, and you can see it was going to be full rock." Asked if he minded the modern instrumentation, McCallaum said. "No, it was great fun doing it.  My father was touring America with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the time, and he came along to a couple of those sessions.  The whole period was very exciting. I'm still listening to those [Pop] songs now.  That early '60's music is unique and very expressive of the emergence of the whole rock thing that followed.  The toughest thing was the selection of the music." And speaking of that exciting period, McCallum's father was a noted classical musician who played on some famous tracks from the SGT Pepper sessions with The Beatles!

You can find various tracks, including Communication, on Youtube. Here is the often-sampled song, 'The Edge', from A Bit More of Me (1966) cut to Man From U.N.C.L.E. footage (look for Jack Lord). More McCallum info at the Fans From U.N.C.L.E. website.

April 26, 2012


Celebrate the design genius of Eero Saarinen with this introduction to the 2007 exhibit at Cranbrook, Shaping the Future.

April 25, 2012

April 24, 2012


On our recent outing to see James Bond on the big screen with students, I was telling one of them about Operation Kid Brother (1967) starring Sean Connery's brother, Neil. We've posted about this classic before, and MST3K did a fine send-up, but I thought Spy Vibers might get a kick out of revisiting the trailer. The Soundtrack is available on Amazon under its alternate title, OK Connery.

April 23, 2012


CINEMA RETRO issue #23 is now shipping in the UK and Europe and will ship to the US in May. These magazines skyrocket in price when they go out of print, so subscribe and make sure you never miss an issue. 

HIGHLIGHTS OF ISSUE #23 INCLUDE: Coverage of the Bond in Motion exhibition in England- the largest single collection of original 007 vehicles ever displayed. We take you inside the gala press event that opened the exhibit. More at Cinema Retro.


There is a fantastic book shop in San Francisco where Spy Vibe, Double O Section and Bish's Beat like to shop called Kayo Books. They carry an extensive inventory of vintage paperback books and pulps, from TV and film tie-in to detectives, spies, westerns, and erotic novels. If you are looking for something rare, stop in or contact them for mail order. On my last visit, I saw many hard-to-find Man From Uncle editions. And I picked up this release of Funeral in Berlin.

April 22, 2012


Check out Kriminal Hammond Inferno, a band from Brussels that fashions themselves after Spy Vibe characters like Diabolik and Kriminal. Our man Agent Jeremy of the Jhalal Drut blog, found this clip from 2007 of the group covering the Danger Diabolik theme song, Deep Deep Down. Kriminal Hammond Inferno has a Facebook page here and it appears that they still do occasional shows covering groovy soundtracks!

April 21, 2012

April 20, 2012


As reported, the Castro Theater in San Francisco is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the James Bond films with a three-day marathon of classics. I went today with a couple of my students to see my favorite in the series, On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Although I've watched the film many times in my life- I even made audio cassette recordings off the TV as a kid so I could listen to the film like a radio drama, I had never seen it on the big screen. 

While the world embraces the personal viewing bubble of iPads and streaming content, today was a great reminder of how a shared, cinematic experience can pack a bigger punch. The Castro is screening all eight classics this weekend in glorious 35mm prints and my fave 007 film never looked better. The cinematography was gorgeous! I noticed artful qualities that had never translated onto the small screen. The action seemed hard-hitting, but not gruesome or gratuitous. And the intimate scope of the story really drew us in like an irresistible mystery tale. 

I've always said that the film's pace and soundtrack sets up the viewer for an emotional climax at the end. Bond is not a superman in this story. Rather, he is a talented operative who falls in love and, briefly, imagines that he might grow and redefine his life. It is not to be. The set-piece is his long and desperate escape down a snowy mountain at night. By the time he reaches the bottom, vulnerable and afraid, he is saved by the woman in his life- Diana Rigg (The Avengers). The film ends with a famously down-beat note. I could feel the audience today really sitting with that long and silent tragic ending. I wasn't the only one who choked up. I always felt empathy for the characters in this movie, but the big screen experience brought it to a new level. I was also surprised how moved I was during the wedding scene, where Bond and Moneypenny share an emotional look as he bids her farewell. It's a true moment of friendship and affection that only the big screen can translate effectively.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service was played straight, a choice that makes Bond's eventual revenge during the campy start to For Your Eyes Only ultimately disappointing. I'd love to see more 007 films like OHMSS- beautifully shot, international but intimate, free from empty action and dazzle, and emotionally satisfying. I encourage Spy Vibers to see more of the marathon this weekend if you are in the area. Classic 007 on the big screen is not to be missed! And re-visit On Her Majesty's Secret Service when it comes out on Blu-ray. Castro poster art info here.


Spy Vibers in the Bay Area are in for a treat when the famous Castro Theater celebrates James Bond's 50th anniversary with three days of 007! See Ian Fleming's larger-than-life action hero the way he was meant to be seen- on the big screen in glorious 35mm! During the three-day marathon, fans have a rare chance to see many of the classics staring Sean Connery, George Lazenby, and Roger Moore. The screening schedule:

Friday April 20
Dr. No 2:00, 7:00
On Her Majesty's Secret Service 4:10, 9:05

Saturday April 21
From Russia With Love 2:30, 9:30
Diamonds Are Forever 4:45
The Spy Who Loved Me 7:05

Sunday April 22
Thunderball 1:00, 8:15
Live and Let Die 3:30
For Your Eyes Only 5:50

April 18, 2012


Piero Umiliani's scores! Spend the week grooving with classic Italian soundtracks. Today: Night in Algeria (I believe the jacket image below is not a match, but from the 1963 documentary, I Piaceri Proibiti).

April 17, 2012


Piero Umiliani's scores! Spend the week grooving with classic Italian soundtracks. Today: Topless Party from Sweden Heaven and Hell (1968).

April 14, 2012


A new play opened today based on the life of Patrick McGoohan (The Prisoner, Danger Man). More details at Cinema Retro.

April 13, 2012


After some requests to see more vintage spy toys, I check back on some of our spy-toy posts from 2009. A number of videos are no longer available on Youtube, so I thought I'd put a collection together here for folks who missed the original run. Check out young Kurt Russell starring in these commercials for Mattel's Agent Zero M gadgets. Those were the days!


The only kind of Avenger I'm really interested in!

April 12, 2012


Spy Vibers in the Bay Area are in for a treat when the famous Castro Theater celebrates James Bond's 50th anniversary with three days of 007! See Ian Fleming's larger-than-life action hero the way he was meant to be seen- on the big screen in glorious 35mm! During the three-day marathon, fans have a rare chance to see many of the classics staring Sean Connery, George Lazenby, and Roger Moore. The screening schedule:

Friday April 20
Dr. No 2:00, 7:00
On Her Majesty's Secret Service 4:10, 9:05

Saturday April 21
From Russia With Love 2:30, 9:30
Diamonds Are Forever 4:45
The Spy Who Loved Me 7:05

Sunday April 22
Thunderball 1:00, 8:15
Live and Let Die 3:30
For Your Eyes Only 5:50

April 9, 2012


We ran a number of vintage toy commercials in the past, but I think this one slipped by our radar. I love the way they filmed his organization, Them. Does Sears even still offer a toy catalog during the holidays?

April 6, 2012


Aston Martin recently posted a short film for the new 2012 V8 Vantage on their YouTube channel. In the film, images of a gorgeous car making its sleek way through the evening are intercut with images of a lovely woman walking through the city. As the soundtrack lulls you into the cinematic experience, the purr of gears shifting keeps one on edge to see the pictures culminate into a cohesive narrative. The mood is anticipatory and sensual, but the fading light and the brand of the car suggest mystery. Finally, the intercutting reveals that she is ascending the steps to a meeting place. The Aston Martin comes to a stop at a high landmark looking over the city. And this is when the cinemaphiles in the audience suddenly know what this is about: In a perfect homage to Claude Lelouch's classic film, C'etait un Rendezvous, shot in Paris with a Ferrari in 1976, the Aston's driver climbs out of his car just as his lover enters the frame. There is a moment of relief and excitement as they run to each other. And like Lelouch's iconic film, the short ends with the lovers in an embrace. Although it does not get the heart pumping like Lelouch's first-prerson pov with the sound of that famous Ferrari engine, Aston Martin's promotional film is quite a nice modern interpretation. Maybe it is because each film was inspired by different goals, but I do detect a noticeable change in focus from the thrill of the journey toward love in the past vs the celebration of image and product in the present. Take a look at both below and see what you think. The original is available from Spirit Level Films. Thanks to Theo Wenner for introducing me to C'etait un Rendezvous years ago when we were swapping great cinema!

April 5, 2012


If you are a Spy Viber who prefers to hear books read out loud, check out the LibriVox website. I was surprised to see that one of the Fantomas titles is available (it is also available as a podcast from iTunes). Although the dramatic quality of recordings depends on who volunteers to read specific titles, LibriVox appears to be a great service for those who enjoy or rely on hearing texts. You can find Fantomas DVDs in the Spy Vibe Amazon Store.

April 3, 2012


Many of us who grew up in the pre-video era know the thrill of finally being able to create libraries of our favorite programs and films on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital files. Those rare treasures that came along every few years on TV are now cataloged and enjoyed from our own shelves. And by the great efforts of a few publishers, we are now in an era of archival re-print collections of classic comic strips. If you missed those few 1980s printings that soared in value, your time has come! On the heels of Fantagraphics' on-going mission to print the entire run of Peanuts, Prince Valiant, Krazy Kat, and Popeye, other publishers have stepped into the fold. Hermes Press is currently releasing complete runs of The Phantom (strips and comics), Buck Rogers, Brenda Starr Reporter, and comic re-prints of Dark Shadows, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Land of the Giants, Time Tunnel, I Spy, and others. IDW has been printing the complete Dick Tracy, Little Orphan Annie, X 9 Secret Agent Corrigan, and Terry & the Pirates. Titan Books, celebrated among Spy Vibers for re-prints of the James Bond and Modesty Blaise comic strips, will begin to release the complete Flash Gordon by Alex Raymond in June! Don't miss these collections while they are in print.